I want to share some thoughts about the strength and dedication of nurses. This post is not about working 12+ hour shifts, missing lunches and breaks, working nights and being exhausted all day just spend a couple hours with those you love, missing the school events kids, or working holidays and missing our families. While those things are all remain very true, we have all heard them before. This post is about how nurses are stronger than Mother Nature.
This past week, the area where I live has been hit with more snow that we can recall in years. Schools and most all business have been closed, power out to thousands of people for days, and road conditions like we have not seen in this area for quite some time. In the Medical profession, there are no snow delays, or snow days. We do not close early or get to leave early when the snow starts coming down. While the general population is able to avoid leaving the house, huddled in their homes by a fireplace, or outside having fun building snowmen, hospitals remain open. We want to stay home too, we do not want to drive in it, but our patients and our coworkers need us to do so. If we do not, who will take care of them? Who will relieve the previous shift so that they can get some sleep? I knew that nurses were among some of the strongest people I know, and this week has further proven that to me in so many ways. Here are some real examples.
Nurses whose commute turned into a 2 hour drive each way in treacherous conditions, yet they still came to work, with a smile, on time. They got up extra early in order to prepare. This is 12 hours on the floor plus a four hour drive for a total of a 16+ hour day, and then in less than 8 hours they had to be back to do it all over again.
Nurses who had no power or water for days but still made arrangements to able to be at work.
Nurses who became carpool drivers picking up as many people as their vehicle would transport, this forced them to have to leave extra early in order to drive around picking up others.
Nurses who slept on cots, couches, and the floor of the hospital because they knew they could not get to work unless they did. This one deserves a little extra emphasis to let this sink in…. some of these nurses did not leave the hospital for more than 72 hours, this was not required by the hospital, but they chose to do it because they could not have made it to work otherwise. They packed their bag on day one, not knowing when they would come home.
Nurses who paid for hotel rooms nearby and WALKED in the snow for more than a mile to ensure they would be at work and on time for their shift.
Nurses who volunteered to come in, knowing there would be those that could not make it. Not one volunteer, but nearly half the crew on one shift was all volunteers who braved the worst day of conditions knowing there were some who could not.
At one point the hospital was forced to call an internal triage which meant that all nurses presently working would potentially not be able to leave as there was concern for the next shift not being able to make it. This is something that does happen, although rare. Instead of complaints, I heard more nurses saying things like “I came prepared”, or “my husband is bringing my overnight bag”, or treating it with humor, “slumber party”. Imagine being unexpectedly told that you could not leave your place of employment until further notice, and yet you are still smiling, still joking, still finding ways to get through for your patients and your team. As it turned out, thanks to volunteers who came in, the internal triage was lifted without anyone having to stay.
And perhaps the story that will stick with me the most when I think about the dedication of nurses. A nurse had called in and said she would be late, her car had gotten stuck and had to be towed, but she would be there as soon as she could. I was charge and making out the assignment and honestly I wrote her out of assignment plan thinking how could she get her car towed and still make it in? She proved me wrong and arrived just in time. She had to jump right into shift report so that the previous shift could get out. Shift report takes about 30 minutes. At the END of report she asked if she could go change her clothes as she was in her words “soaked all the way to her undies”. As it turns out this nurse had not only gotten stuck, she attempted to dig her own car out and when not successful, got the help of strangers to help. These strangers ended up driving her to work! She had been soaked for hours between trying to dig her car out and the time it took to get to work. Yet she said nothing at the time, she jumped right in and did what she had to do in order to take care of her patients, remaining wet and cold for an additional 30 minutes. Taking care of herself only after she got the needed information on her patients and got her coworkers on their way home.
I also want to recognize the families of these nurses who supported them in their dedication. Numerous examples of rides to work, and bringing food and more clothes. You are just as dedicated. And, these stories are not unique to just nurses, I am including all hospital staff in this category as well as those in the other service industries, and I thank all of them for their dedication as well!
So my fellow nurses take a moment to thank yourself for everything you have done in the past week to keep your patients taken care of and the extra mile you have gone, literally, to ensure you have been there for them. You are among the strongest individuals I know, stronger than anything Mother Nature can pour down on you.